BWW Reviews: CHICAGO at Village Has a Cast of Killers!
I've seen it more times than I care to count. Between the movie version, the still running Broadway revival, the touring productions and copious local productions most people have. And why not? "Chicago" is one of Kander and Ebb's best and most enduring. So when Village Theatre announced it would be closing their season I thought, "Oh goodie I get to see it AGAIN!" But Director Steve Tomkins has not only assembled one kick-ass cast but they've put their own little twist on it. No, they haven't set it in space or anything but they have returned the glitz, flash and humor to a show that has become known for seductively brooding in the dark. Oh the sex is still there but it's accompanied by a sense of whimsy that makes this production stand apart.
The opening greeting from the dashing MC says it all. "Ladies and Gentlemen, you are about to see a story of?murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery,?and treachery - all those things we all hold near and dear to?our hearts." And that's what we get as we enter the world of Chicago where Roxie Hart (Taryn Darr) has just shot her lover and has been sent to the big house. And she'll probably be hung for it too unless her fast talking lawyer Billy Flynn (Timothy McCuen Piggee) can turn her crime into celebrity and get her off. But all of Roxie's newfound attention doesn't sit well with fellow murderess inmate Velma Kelly (Desiree Davar) who was the darling of the papers until Roxie came along. And the two battle for tabloid superiority, oh, and also try to evade their murder charges.
The show still has all the sexy elements you have come to expect. The girls (and guys) still parade around in their scanties but those costumes are not the basic black that has become so iconic with the show. Costumer Karen Ann Ledger has not only reintroduced a ton of color and sequins to the wardrobe but also infused them with some delicious art deco styles that are perfect for that 20's feel. And it's the little touches like that as well as the ones that Tomkins and his cast have added that elevate this production. As I mentioned, the dashing MC (Art Anderson) who constantly appears with a twinkle in his eye and a swagger in his step. The brilliant bits of staging like the hilarious touches with the piano player in Roxie's first number. The hysterical but never obtrusive jury members (all played by John David Scott) who almost stole the show. All those little things amounted to one of the best productions of the show I've seen not to mention one of the best musicals I've seen all season.
And yes, that cast. Darr takes Roxie beyond the simpering little twit and into the realm of schemer that I think the role demands. Davar is a true triple threat with her insanely athletic dancing, rich voice and stunning stage presence. You could not ask for a better Billy Flynn than Piggee. Not only does he have the vocal chops to pull it off but also he gets the ego and smooth style of the character. Shaunyce Omar as the prison Matron Mama Morton is a force of nature from the moment she sets foot on stage. And then she opens her mouth and you know she owns it. Richard Gray as Roxie's near invisible husband Amos plays the shlub to the hilt and yet keeps him completely loveable. And Ryan P. McCabe turns in a stunner of a performance as the overly optimistic reporter Mary Sunshine. I was fortunate enough to see McCabe perform this role in another production around town and she has only grown more confident in the role over time and can now wow in an even grander production.
With Tomkins' sensibilities at the helm, the amazing Tim Symons' music directing and some killer choreography from Kristin Holland, the show was almost destined to be a hit. And I'm happy to announce they have made it so. This is the production by which others must be judged. If you've already seen the show a million times or have never seen it, be sure to get yourself to this one. Missing it would be a crime.
"Chicago" from Village Theatre performs at the Issaquah location through June 29th and then moves onto their Everett location from July 5th through the 28th. For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or their Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.
Photo credit: Jay Koh